Human and Civil Rights-Related Courses for Undergraduates


The following is a semester-specific overview of course offerings across departments, majors, and undergraduate colleges at Notre Dame. The courses listed below vary in the time dedicated to core human and civil rights. A number of courses focus primarily on the human and civil rights fields; others engage interpretations of human and civil rights through the lenses of democracy, gender and sexuality, inequality, and similar themes.

Spring 2018 Human and Civil Rights-Related Undergraduate Courses


African-American Resistance


Through a close examination of twelve historical events, we will study African-American resistance in the United States from the 17th century through the 20th century. We will employ a case-study method and seek to categorize and characterize the wide variety of African-American resistance. Our study will include the politics of confrontation and civil disobedience, polarization of arts, transformation of race relations, the tragedies and triumphs of Reconstruction, interracial violence, black political and institutional responses to racism and violence, the Harlem Renaissance, jazz, blues, and the civil rights and black power movements. Students will be confronted with conflicting bodies of evidence and challenged to analyze these issues and arrive at conclusions. Music and film will supplement classroom discussions. 


Richard Pierce

AFST 40701 (CRN 26805)

AMST 40326 (CRN 26812)

HESB 40106 (CRN 27594)

IIPS 40919 (CRN 27828)

HIST 40628 (30552)




Gay and Lesbian America


This course investigates the historical, political, and cultural dimensions of gay and lesbian identities in the United States from the early twentieth century to the present, paying special attention to the historical constructedness of sexual categories. It considers such matters as the medicalization of homosexual practices, the emergence of homophile movements and "gay liberation," the ways that AIDS affected those nascent movements, and the recent movement of LGBTQ politics to the center of American public life. We will engage with a variety of sources, including oral histories, documentary films, queer theory, and popular culture, to interrogate how gay- and lesbian-identified people challenge and reinforce the idea of the American Dream. 



AMST 30120 (CRN 29358)

GSC 30629 (CRN 30039)

AMST 30120 (CRN 30421 or 30422)

HIST 30623 (CRN 29900)

AMST 30180 (CRN 30433 or 30434)




Global Indigenous Politics


Indigenous people often appear to be people without property. Whether it is outside observers who presume that they never had a "proper" economy of individual possessions, or whether it is indigenous representatives who define themselves as having lost their property?their land, their traditions, their languages?what and who is indigenous is defined by an absence. In contemporary contexts of globalization, however, indigenous traditional knowledge as intellectual property has become a lightning rod of political action. There has been a corresponding redefinition of the indigenous from the criterion of autochthony or priority to relations of dispossession or appropriation. Anthropology has continued comparative study of the variety of theories of, or knowledge about, property and its place in the construction of individuals and collectivities in indigenous societies. This course connects cultural categories of property with ethnographic scenes of its alienation to explore the emerging role of culture as emblem, itself a kind of property. We ask how indigenous appropriation of the culture concept and colonial appropriation of the environmental knowledge, art, language, and land of indigenous cultures furthers the cycle of symbolic and material exchange that defines indigeneity. 


Christopher Ball

ANTH 43403 (CRN 29385)




Inequality & Democracy


In this course we study the tensions between inequality and democracy by studying the experience of developing nations in Latin America, Africa and South Asia, and by assessing how democracy interacts with human and economic development. A well-functioning democracy presumes that citizens have an equal right to influence policies. But this formal political equality clashes with the reality of social inequality in the developing world. When citizens have widely disparate access to wealth and education, political decisions can be biased in favor of those who have the most. In this seminar we examine the origins, functioning, consequences, and policy implications of unequal democracies. We begin by covering normative theories of how democracy should work from philosophy, political science, and economics. Drawing on the experience of developing and advanced economies, we next analyze how inequality might threaten these normative ideals, by studying a wide-range of phenomena including segmented political participation, lobbying, campaign donations, corruption, vote buying, and electoral fraud. The last part of the course turns to the possible solutions to these problems, such as transparency initiatives, judicial accountability, campaign finance reform, social policy, and redistribution. Students will engage these topics by reading the specialized literature, case studies, coverage of current events, and through hands-on data analysis of socio-economic indicators, and public opinion polls. 



HESB 30326 (CRN 30531)

IDS 30544 (CRN 30586)

CNST 30241 (CRN 30648)

POLS 30569 (CRN 30657)




International Relations 


This course provides an introduction to the study of international relations and will cover several theoretical approaches to and empirical issues in the field of IR. Readings have been selected to highlight both traditional approaches to and more recent developments in world politics. The first half of the course focuses on contending theories of IR, while the second half of the course deals with more substantive issues. Empirical topics and subjects covered include: international security (nuclear weapons, ethnic conflict, and terrorism) - international political economy (trade, international finance, and globalization) - and 20th Century History (WWI, WWII, and the Cold War). In addition, we will examine several contemporary topics in international organization and law, including the environment, nongovernmental organizations, and human rights. We conclude by discussing the future of international relations in the 21st Century.


Susan Rosato

IIPS 20501 (CRN 12427)

POLS 10200 (CRN 13441)

POLS 20200 (CRN 11665, 19763)




Intro to International Development


An introduction to the field of international development, with particular focus on the various disciplines that have contributed to and shaped the development discourse. Readings, lectures, and discussions will draw from various disciplines, including economics, political science, sociology, anthropology, environmental and technological sciences, public health, law, and gender studies, among others. We will examine debates on the meaning and measurement of development; alternative approaches to, and methods in, the study of development; and attempts to address some of the main development challenges facing the world today. There will be a central focus on understanding "what works" in development. Working together in teams, students will conceptualize and design an international development project using "real world" constraints.


IDS 20500 (CRN 17851, 20745)

POLS 30363 (CRN 20594)

POLS 30595 (CRN 20082)




Introduction to Criminology


As in introduction to the topic of criminology, this course examines crime as a social problem within American society. Particular attention is given to the nature and function of law in society, theoretical perspectives on crime, victimology, sources of crime data, the social meaning of criminological data and the various societal responses to crime. These topics are addressed through specialized readings, discussion, and analysis.


Robert Vargas

SOC 20732 (CRN 12908)

STV 20331 (CRN 14582)

CNST 20403 (CRN 20334)




Introduction to Social Problems


Today's society is beset by many serious social problems, for example, crime and deviance, drug abuse and addiction, domestic violence, hunger and poverty, and racial/ethnic discrimination. How do we think about these problems in ways that lead to helpful solutions? In what ways does one's own social background and role in society affect his/her views of these problems? In this course, students will learn to take a sociological perspective not only in examining the causes, consequences, and solutions to some of society's most troubling social problems, but also in taking a critical look at their own perceptions of the problems.


Dustin Stoltz

SOC 10033 (CRN 12474)

SOC 20033 (CRN 12475, 19732)

AFST 20703 (CRN 15894)




Literacy as a Civil Right


This course is designed as an introduction to conducting original research. As you work on your own research - the primary focus of the class - we will examine such research methods as interviews, observation, and focus groups. You will have opportunities to practice using these methods in class in order to understand each method's potential strengths and weaknesses. In addition to learning how to design, carry out, and write up your own study, we would also like you to develop the ability to read research critically. 


Stuart Greene

AFST 33075 (CRN 29534)

ESS 33521 (CRN 29487)

PS 33010 (CRN 29492)





Native American Studies


America is Indian Country! Our identity is tied to both real American Indian people and romanticized ideas about them. Anglo Americans liked to play Indian but they also claimed a right to places, land, and water. All of this presented a variety of problems for Native Americans over time. This course examines Native Americans and their constant adaptation and survival from European contact through the 20th century, as well as Anglo America's cooption of Native resources, traditions, and images. It explores themes of Native American creation, treaties, education, sovereignty, culture, literature, humor, art, and activism. We will address national issues but also recognize their are over 500 distinct cultural and linguistic groups who are the indigenous people of the modern United States. Questions we will explore include why Native people are sovereign but also U.S. Citizens, why Indian mascots are such a hot issue, and how Native people have come to run so many Casinos. This course is the history and culture course that brings the first Americans together with the rest of America. 


Brian Collier

AMST 30180 (CRN 29363)




Prisons and Policing in the US


Scholars and activists use the concept of the ?carceral state? to describe the official, government use of policing, surveillance, and mass imprisonment to exercise control over society. This course examines the histories, cultures, politics, and economics of prisons and policing in the United States, in order to determine how the U.S. carceral state has been a factor in the social construction of race, gender, and citizenship. We will study the genealogy of the U.S. carceral state -- beginning with the surveillance embedded in the earliest practices of slavery and settler colonialism, tracing its development through the 19th and early 20th centuries, and concluding with the rise of the modern prison industrial complex. We will then focus on contemporary U.S. prisons, policing, and surveillance, using case studies including the ?war on drugs,? immigrant detention, sex-crime regulation, and police violence. Finally, we will consider alternatives to prisons and policing, as we learn about academic research and activist movements working to end state and police violence, abolish prisons, and create opportunities for restorative justice. Over the course of the semester, students will learn about the historical development and ongoing maintenance of the carceral state, using an intersectional framework that highlights the ways in which prisons and policing have both shaped, and been shaped by, race, gender, citizenship, and economics. Along the way, students will ask and address such questions as: How does the U.S. carceral state function as a tool for social control? What histories, policies, and ideologies underlie the carceral state? How have individuals and organizations worked to transform or abolish the carceral state? How have art and cultural production been used to normalize and/or critique the carceral state? And can we imagine a world without prisons or police? 


Pamela Butler

AMST 30761 (CRN 27070)

GSC 40522 (CRN 27219)

HESB 40104 (CRN 27593)

HIST 30861 (27606)

CNST 40404 (CRN 27770)

IIPS 40921 (CRN 27826)

ESS 40610 (29920)

AFST 40711 (CRN 30415)




Race/Ethnicity and American Politics


This course introduces students to the dynamics of the social and historical construction of race and ethnicity in American political life. The course explores the following core questions: What are race and ethnicity? What are the best ways to think about the impact of race and ethnicity on American citizens? What is the history of racial and ethnic formation in American political life? How do race and ethnicity link up with other identities animating political actions like gender and class? What role do American political institutions (the Congress, presidency, judiciary, state and local governments, etc.) play in constructing and maintaining these identity categories? Can these institutions ever be used to overcome the points of division in American society? 


Dianne Pinderhughes

AFST 30601 (CRN 29353)

AMST 30431 (CRN 29366)

ILS 30535 (CRN 29491)

POLS 30035 (CRN 29511)

HESB 30421 (CRN 30065)




Racial Justice and African American Politics


Through four major units beginning with the new Jim Crow and then working chronologically through abolition, the civil rights movement, and black feminist thought, students will encounter complex topics such as racial and intersectional identity, social justice, power relations, and methods of political protest. Ta-Nehisi Coates' and Michelle Alexander's recent works, Between the World and Me and The New Jim Crow, serve as our starting point and our constant foil for the evolution of African American political thought from 1830-2017. The course culminates in an original research project comparing contemporary work to historical political thought, enabling students to consider the movement for black lives (Black Lives Matter), the mass incarceration of African Americans, and the Obama presidency as part of a much longer story. 


Karie Cross

IIPS 30201 (CRN 30071)

AFST 30076 (CRN 30408)

AMST 30961 (CRN 30439)

HESB 30327 (CRN 30532)

POLS 30745 (CRN 30658)




Racism and Human Dignity


This is a course on the Christian nature of the human person with respect to the modern sin of racism. The course will investigate the past and present status of racism in the modern world, tackling major questions like: What is racism? How did racism develop within human history? What has the Church's response been to racist actions and ideas, both in the time of Colonialism and chattel slavery, as well as in the 20th and 21st centuries? What does the Catholic Church say about racism now? What does theology have to do with ending racism?The first half course will begin with a brief analysis of ancient forms of slavery and bias, move into the dawn of modern racism in the 15th-17th centuries, and finish with a discussion of chattel slavery in the United States. Throughout the historical analysis, we will look at how the Church responded to the many examples of human inequalities, with special focus on the problem of Christians as both slaves and slave-owners in the 18th and 19th centuries. The second half of the course will turn attention to modern investigations, analyses, and proposals for ending racism. In this part of the course, we will try to answer the question: what is the role of the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches today in the fight against racism and human inequality, especially in the United States? The course will finish with discussions of Christian approaches to the modern Black Lives Matter movement, immigration, and the growing anti-Muslim sentiment over the last few years. The course will culminate with a project that seeks to contribute to the Christian anti-racist movement in a novel way by employing language and methods discussed throughout the course. A selection of authors we will read: Shawn Copeland, Bryan Massingale, Chris Pramuk, James Cone, Howard Thurman, Dawn M. Nothwehr, and multiple Catholic documents from Popes and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. 


John Slattery

THEO 20805 (CRN 30264)

THEO 20805 (CRN 30694)




Social Movements, Conflict and Peacebuilding


In many of the recurring conflicts around the world, at issue are demands for justice. Whether these revolve around economic inequality, political repression, environmental devastation, civil and political rights, ethnic or religious exclusion, or discrimination on the basis of race, class, gender, sexuality or disability status (to name just a few), social movements are often the carriers of these calls for justice. In this course, we will examine how social movements emerge from, contribute to, and suggest resolutions for various types of social conflict, as well as explore their potential contributions to sustainable peacebuilding. We will examine theory and research on how social movements emerge, escalate, consolidate and decline; how they choose (and change) protest tactics; how they articulate their visions and goals; how they generate emotions, solidarity and commitment; how they interact with networks of allies, opponents and powerholders; and how they influence (or fail to influence) agendas, policies, and regimes. We will put a particular emphasis on the comparative study of social movements in different regions of the world, as well as on the challenges and opportunities posed by transnational movements that seek to organize across borders. 


Ann Mische

IIPS 40807 (CRN 30075)

SOC 40050 (CRN 30686)




Topics in Civil Liberties/Civil Rights


This course explores topics in American constitutional law related to civil liberties and civil rights. The course employs a variety of instructional methods including Socratic method lectures, class debates, and moot court exercises in which students play the role of lawyers and justices arguing a Supreme Court case. Students will explore the social and political struggles that have shaped freedom and equality in the United States, including debates over protest, hate speech, pornography, religious freedom, gun control, abortion, race, gender, and homosexuality. 


Matthew Hall

HESB 30626 (CRN 27591)

CNST 30006 (CRN 27754)POLS 30068 (CRN 27774)




Youth Empowerment, Literacy, and Changing Urban Landscapes


This course examines youth experiences in a changing urban landscape affected by gentrification, school choice, and disinvestment in low-income minority neighborhoods. We will examine how youth make sense of their lived environments, develop a sense of identity within the context of family and community, and struggle to find safe spaces where they can flourish. To understand key concepts in the course, we will read studies that focus on youth empowerment and the extent to which rich literate experiences and art provide youth with multiple opportunities to develop a sense of personal agency that can foster civic participation and action. To ground our critical analysis of urban landscapes, students will participate in an offsite community-based learning (CBL) project with local youth through a partnership with the Neighborhood Resource Corporation, Notre Dame's new Center for Arts and Culture (, and the Robinson Community Learning Center. Please note: Additional out of class time will be required for this class. 


ESS 43203 (CRN 25037)

AFST  43700  (CRN 24946)

AMST  30465 (CRN 24953)

ILS  40004 (CRN 30572)




Critical Pedagogy and Popular Culture: Transforming Urban Education


Critical pedagogy, or education intended to inspire radical self love, social consciousness and action for change, has the potential to become one of the most relevant and powerful tools in urban education today. This course will consider the potential of conceptual and empirical work in critical pedagogy and cultural studies to inform, confront and transform many of the persistent challenges we presently face domestically and internationally in urban classrooms, schools, and school systems. The course begins with an examination of the historical antecedents of critical pedagogy, both from the Western philosophical tradition and ?Othered? Post-colonial traditions from East and South Asia, Africa, the African-Diaspora, and Latin America. The course will then examine the theory and research of critical pedagogists such as Paulo Freire, Sonia Nieto, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Peter McLaren, Henry Giroux, Antonia Darder, and bell hooks. The second half of the course will focus on cultural studies and, in particular, critical pedagogies of popular culture in urban education. Lectures and student activities will focus on hip-hop and spoken word poetry, film, television, mass media consumption and production and their implications for transformative pedagogical engagements with young people in major cities across the globe. 


ESS 30561 (CRN 30563)

AFST  43714  (CRN 30401)

ENGL  40155 (CRN 30757)



Language, Literacy/ies, and Pedagogy in 21st Century Schooling and Society

"As a field of study, literacy entangles some of the most difficult problems in social analysis?among them the question of text, that is, of language, situation, and meaning?yet it is also a very familiar topic, the source of many proclaimed crises and the subject of many slogans and sound-bites about how to live, raise children, and prepare for the rigors and excitements of the new century" (Collins & Blot, 2009, p.1).Literacy, as Collins and Blot, note, is a familiar topic?one so ingrained in our everyday practices, exchanges, and identities that we might take it for granted. This course, relevant not only to aspiring educators but to anyone interested in the politics of language, seeks to nuance both the concept and practice of literacy. Adopting a critical sociocultural perspective on literacy, and with a focus on works from the New Literacy Studies and beyond, we will come to see reading and writing as pluralistic cultural practices shaped by (and giving shape to) larger contexts?social, political, historical, and always ideological. Beginning with a brief historical overview of literacy studies, we will investigate the larger economic, religious, and social forces that influence or ?sponsor? literate practices. From there, we will more critically examine the relationship between language and power, unpacking the standards by which a person is deemed ?literate? or ?illiterate? in U.S. society, and better understanding how literacy, more than a cognitive ?skill,? has implications for a person?s identity and place within social structures. The second half of the semester will focus on assessing the implications of a more nuanced and critical conceptualization of language and literacies on literacy teaching and learning in U.S. school contexts. We will explore the language and literacy practices of youth culture, and ask how they might become a source of curriculum and pedagogy that honors students? plural identities. And, finally, we will ask what the purpose of language and literacy education might be?especially in a global, multilingual, multiethnic society? Assignments will include a short literacy autobiography, a presentation, and a project that will explore literacy practices in a traditional (e.g., schools) or nontraditional (e.g., a Bible study a group, a Spoken Word poetry club, an online special interest group, etc.) literacy education space. 


ESS 33631 (CRN 30470)

CSLC  20306  (CRN 30401)

SOC  33631 (CRN 30684)